Below is a an article I posted on squidoo.com probably around February or March of 2014. The permalink is http://www.squidoo.com/advice-for-education-majors. When I logged back into squidoo.com after several months it appeared it was removed due to lack of page visits. I had to re-post it. I decided to post it here as a more permanent reference and it is pasted below. For squidoo.com (as of writing this) I have four lenses published and have $0.84 waiting and they pay you once you have $25. It seems for squidoo.com to pay well you have lots of articles on topics that are popular. Just have to write, write, and write some more.
Advice for Education Majors
Some sections in this article may be obvious to some and can be skipped over or used as a refresher. For others this may contain encouraging tidbits they did not know that will help them make it through sometimes difficult semesters. Also, I have written this several years after graduating college with an Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) degree with a focus in education. I was an elementary education major for three and a half years out of four years at Illinois State University (ISU). It is possible in the future I may think of additional pieces of advice and add them to this article. This includes some solid advice such as reasons for always showing up to class and beginning the job search early and backing up all of your work and ways to not overwhelm yourself with too much schoolwork.
Prepare For Senior Year
Looking back on my four years as an elementary education major at Illinois State University (ISU), I think the best piece of advice I could give is to prepare for senior year. It was much more demanding than all of the other years, and it is probably best to do whatever you can to make this year less stressful. You may want to take twelve hours instead of fifteen. Consider saving a challenging class and or endorsement program for continuing education studies after you graduate. You may want to take summer classes prior to this year to allow for you to take nine hours. I graduated in 2008 and back then there was this huge time-consuming project of writing a unit with all these specific requirements and I think it stressed everyone a great deal. Some people prefer to have a lot going on and do well with assignments like that. Good for people that can do that, but for most people it will probably be very stressful with huge assignments and fifteen hours of classes and clinicals and student-teaching next semester or maybe you are already in the year-long student teaching program. It can be a horrible experience if you have too much on your plate. I remember having so much on my plate I would sleep in not because I was being irresponsible but because I was so tired from all the hours and late nights I was putting in due to the workload. Many good students did not understand why their grades and nearly everyone’s grades seemed to slip senior year. The classes are harder, you are expected to be a mature senior, professors assume you are passionate and never burned out towards the subject matter, and the demands are much higher. Try to work smart and not hard. If an assignment is not worth as many points as another assignment prioritize and spend less time on the assignment worth less points no matter how much you prefer it.
There are many people that are smart and know what they are doing but have the wrong attitude. Not only does positive thinking have health benefits it also helps you perform better. For some, reading this section could be skipped. However, for many it is a good refresher and can help anyone cope with discouragement and or inadequacy feelings. I recommend reading books like You Are What You Think by David Stoop, Ph.D. (listed in the Amazon module below) and checking out some of the blog posts on ChiroOne.net such as “Mindfulness Tips To Try Today” and “What a Vision Board Can Do For You.” Possibly make an inspiration box and include inside collected notes of encouragement and motivating stories to use when you need it. You can just use an old shoe box for this or buy a photo box. Post encouraging phrases near your mirror and or where you see them regularly. Remember, you are working towards an opportunity where you can impact the lives of youth for the better. A teacher is given a small power with the ability to inspire, uplift, and encourage. A teacher can inspire hope and love and motivation towards a subject. No matter what is said you are not perfect but able to contribute.
The most common objection to a study abroad is the cost. There are study abroad programs that cost about the same or slightly less than what most students are already paying. However, it most likely still does cost slightly more given the cost of a plane ticket and buying and packing luggage and all those travel size items they sell. Nevertheless, it is not that much more and you are able to pack light and will learn so much from that experience. Many merit academic scholarships require a study abroad. At ISU, honors program students with the presidential scholarship were required to complete a study abroad and it ended up costing them some of their own money. You can apply for programs that relate to your field of study. Places like Japan, South Korea, and Finland are known for good education systems. Consider programs outside your field of study. This makes you well rounded and with a diverse set of skills. You will benefit from other fields of study and may incorporate the knowledge into future endeavors. It also allows you to prevent burnout and take a break and refresh yourself. Nearly all the programs have reference and grade point average (GPA) requirements and many have language proficiency requirements. Some programs turn away people and others do not have enough applicants. Some programs have less requirements than others and some have no foreign language proficiency requirements. If a study abroad is not something that would work out right now consider seeking out volunteer or intern programs where you learn multicultural skills and sometimes learn foreign language skills. I have a short post I wrote called “Study Abroad Alternatives” on my personal sort of test website sewisabel dot com that discusses this.
Always Show Up For Class
A mistake many freshmen make is they receive the syllabus in a large introductory lecture class and think they only need to show up for the test. Many things in the lectures reward students for showing up and help a great deal on the test. Many large introductory classes have pop quizzes that require your attendance. With nearly all foreign language classes it is impossible to pass without showing up as they have practice labs that require your attendance. It just gives you an edge to show up to a lecture class and professors could make changes to the syllabus. The syllabus is no substitute for not showing up to any class. If you are having issues with the subject matter the lectures will help you and also attending the professor and or teaching assistant office hours. Not to mention you could get a reference letter from one of them and use it towards your study abroad application. Office hours can be very helpful and it is often worth it to visit. Sometimes they function as group study sessions. It just helps you learn better when you read the material and hear the material and see the material and talk about the material in office hours. Just receiving a syllabus and reading some of the material is not going to have the best results and could result in barely passing or not passing many classes. Failing a class is not fun and carries consequences. Cheating could get you expelled or transferred or placed on academic probation (the step before expulsion) and cost unnecessary time and cash. If you are trying professors will work with you and you should be able to avoid academic probation. You may not get the best grades in every class, but that is better than the risky consequences of cheating. Many students wish they applied themselves more freshman year to avoid having to raise their GPA and work unusually hard the following years. There are students that think college is for fun, but it actually requires a great deal of work and huge time commitments. Staying up late neglecting studies for parties will have consequences. You may show up with no important paper written or sleep in and miss an important test. You have to be responsible. There is much expected from college students and they are expected to know better than to be negligent.
Don’t Worry About Endorsements
Many endorsements can stress you out and require staying an extra semester or two. Some students really want to complete the degree in four years with some nice endorsements such as math and reading for elementary education majors or with something extra for a math or English education major. There are students that do well with a lot on the plate and they really apply themselves and that is great. People in that situation should stay focused and push themselves and can read the section on positive thinking and skip reading this section if they wish. Here I am stating how after graduation you will have opportunity and time to take additional courses to obtain those extras. Completing a degree in five years instead of four is becoming increasingly common and a lot of it is due to those extra courses towards endorsements. You have to consider if you are ready to put in that extra time because for many it will cost that. There is always something to be endorsed in and one to three good endorsements are usually better than five. With five you are spreading yourself thin and putting a lot on the plate. It could be done, but it is a lot to keep up with and they all have different organizations and tests and courses. An elementary education major could graduate with the typical history and English endorsements and over a few summers could easily become endorsed in math and reading. Not to mention there are schools that have teachers not endorsed in math teaching math due to a variety of reasons. All of those special honors designations are great, but if you just make the Dean’s List once (top ten percent in GPA) that makes the impression. No one really remembers what the fanciest honors designation was called. Just the fact you have honors or a magna cum laude sends the message. Some people do not like the honors students thinking they cannot relate to struggling students and some would not consider looking at hiring people with anything less than a perfect GPA. Do the best you can without exhausting yourself over little awards hardly anyone can exactly remember what the requirements were five or more years after college graduation. With teaching, experience is valued more than a masters degree. When you have a masters degree in teaching you need to have experience to go with it. Having a masters degree in teaching and no experience will make it harder to get hired. Look into a masters degree after acquiring a few years teaching experience. Also, some states value national board certification more than a masters degree.
Start the Job Search Very Early
Right now in 2014 the job market is tough, and was tough in 2008 when I graduated. Start thinking about and visiting jobs fairs junior and even sophomore year. See what places are hiring and what they are looking for. Many are not finding any jobs after college and looking early gives you a head start. After all is said and done, going to job fairs and asking around as early as sophomore year will make you less likely to end up with no job at all after college. Be prepared to relocate for a job. The only job you can find may be in an unexpected location. As of writing this in 2014 Asia has many teaching English abroad jobs and Texas and California supposedly do not have enough teachers and it is easier to get a teaching job there. Ask around about jobs and network. Teachers are getting laid off even in areas where teachers are needed and they have experience and credentials with in-demand subjects such as mathematics. There are jobs, it is just many of them do not pay a lot and require relocating and have longer than expected hours. Look into buying an interview suit and check out library books on how to interview and write a resume. Be strategic in your job search and seek out openings that look like a good fit. Possibly sign up for a mock interview at the career placement center and practice clarity of speech (the nonprofit Toastmasters International offers free group practice help with this) and good eye contact. Do all you can. Look into volunteering at a school. When volunteering even if it is a school where teachers and staff dress down and wear gym shoes and jeans it is recommended to dress well and wear dress shoes. There are work shoes you can buy at uniform stores from brands such as Dansko that look like dress shoes but provide extra support and comfort if you are wearing them for long hours and walking around in them.
Use a Google Cloud Backup
When I was an elementary education major from 2004 to 2008 there was no Google cloud backup. I used flash drives (also called USB drives and thumb drives) to backup data. Flash drives are not meant for backup, they are intended for transporting information and make a somewhat frustrating backup. When I would backup files with a flash drive it would ask me if I wanted to override identical files and I was often worried I saved the wrong version. It became a little much at times. There are other paid options to the Google cloud like Crashplan (probably the cheapest) and Carbonite. It is great to have this as nearly everyone has had an issue where the computer did not save right or the computer just crashed, sometimes while you are in the middle of typing an assignment due too soon. Computers tend to crash or cease to function at the most inconvenient times also. Using backup prevents you from losing all of your hard work. I am sure there are issues with Google cloud but most people seem happy with it. If you are able definitely have two computers and use one for backup just in case the one crashes or is refusing to work correctly. One common comment I have heard from graduates is that their computer crashed and they lost a great deal of info.
Consider Work Outside Your Field
Be aware things are probably going to be tougher than expected. Even if you end up interning or volunteering that experience should eventually lead to an actual paid position. Many graduates are getting jobs, but they are not in their field of study and some are underemployed. Unfortunately, from my experience the job market is so tough it is nearly a necessity to look into ways to self-employ yourself. Excellent teachers are getting laid off and people are leaving jobs because of low pay and long hours and dissatisfaction. You may have success finding another avenue of income selling items on eBay and or Amazon and or Etsy and possibly even in real estate management. Sell items online during the breaks. It was the recession in the nineties that made eBay with people selling artwork to used items to transitioning to pretty much professional eBay sellers. Writing articles and starting a blog are also options for self-employment. Write about things you are learning as this can even replace paying for backup if you do not have the money are are uneasy about spending it. Read teaching blogs and keep all of your papers. Always look for ways to self-employ yourself with unexpected employment gaps.
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. It is becoming increasingly common to complete a bachelors degree in five years instead of four. There are degrees such as special education that are five year programs which means some people complete the program in six years. It may take longer than expected to complete the degree. You might not get the job you expected and many graduates are struggling to find work. Be prepared to move or travel for a job. Remember, no matter what is said you are able to contribute. You are not perfect, but able to give back. You might want to make an effort to stay positive like having an inspiration box or posting encouraging phrases near your mirror. Keep things balanced and in perspective and know you are a valuable person that can contribute. Teaching has its ups and downs and gives an opportunity to inspire and make a positive impact in the lives of students. Focus on the big picture of assisting and facilitating students in learning and don’t get caught up in minor discouraging setbacks. Overall, people in the school system are promoting opportunities for countless students. Most people looking back appreciate their teachers and acknowledge they were overall blessed by them. Feel free to contact me via the comments with any questions and or for any further clarity. I would love to hear form you!